fishing boat seafood week

The government will recommend ending the practice of discarding catches

Defra is set to publish its highly anticipated Fisheries White Paper today, proposing an overhaul of the way quotas are set out.

The paper, called ‘Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations’ has been subject to multiple delays ahead of today’s announcement. It is set to mark the government’s intention to put “flexibility to negotiate with other countries” and measures to “ensure stocks are fished sustainably” at the centre of policy.

In England, the government will propose implementing reserve quotas, which could be used to offset so-called ‘choke species’ - those with a low quota that can force a vessel to stop fishing even if it is below the allowance for other species.

Defra will recommend reinforcing the suggested quota system with a new scheme to help fishermen unable to find quota to set against their catch.

The UK will continue to abide by the Common Fisheries Policy until 2020, when it will begin negotiating access to waters and fishing opportunities independently on an annual basis, in an approach similar to that of Norway. It also intends to distance itself from the question of access to market for fish products, focusing instead on access to waters for fishing.

Read more: UK food & drink needs clarity on Brexit – not more government inertia

Parity in allocation of fishing opportunities will also feature prominently in the paper, with the government suggesting methods such as zonal attachment - basing opportunities on current distribution of fish stocks, updating the current system that is driven by historical data.

“I have been clear that when we leave the EU we will take back control of our waters, while ensuring we don’t see our fishermen unfairly denied access to other waters,” said prime minister Theresa May.

“The plans set out today demonstrate the bright future in store as we build the UK fishing industry for future generations by putting the importance of a healthy marine environment at its heart.”

Environment plan

Meanwhile, the plan suggests pursuing an approach to fisheries management intended to minimise the impact on non-commercial species and the marine environment.

To ensure these targets are met, the government would publish an annual statement on the health of fish stocks from the latest scientific evidence. If stocks are found to be struggling, the four UK fisheries administrations will work together to implement a recovery plan.

Further commitments to sustainability will include ending the practice of discarding fish and ensuring vessels will only be granted permission to fish in British waters if they observe UK sustainability standards.

“We don’t want to see a ‘fill your boots’ fisheries policy that decimates our precious seas and cripples our fishing communities,” said Lyndsey Dodds, head of marine policy at WWF. “Proposals must put the right focus on managing fish stocks in a sustainable way and protecting our marine environment.

“As we leave the EU we must use our power wisely and ensure any increase in fishing doesn’t threaten our marine environment. That means there must be clear commitments to a healthy ocean, underpinned in law in the forthcoming Fisheries Bill.”

Read more: Agriculture and trade departments ‘unprepared’ for Brexit, MPs warn

Environment secretary Michael Gove added: “Leaving the EU creates a sea of opportunity for our fishing industry. Outside the Common Fisheries Policy we can take back control of our waters and revitalise our coastal communities.

“We will be able to put in place our own systems, becoming a world leader in managing our resources while protecting the marine environment.”